A Modern Remodel
A step-by-step look at how one Texas optometric practice brought its look into the 21st century
By Erinn Morgan
Randal Cox, OD, wanted to bring his optometrist-in-training son into a well-designed, modern practice. That meant that it was time to update the 25-year-old building and interior office, which had originally been designed and built by Dr. Cox.
“I didn't want my son to come into a dated office. So, we decided to get it modern looking,” says Dr. Cox, co-owner of the Atlanta, Texas-based Family Eye Care Clinic with Terry Foster, OD.
Another driving force to get this project under way was an act of nature. “It all started with a hailstorm with tennis-ball-sized hail that broke one of our skylights,” says Dr. Cox. “The ceiling got wet. We decided to fix and paint it and it ballooned from there.”
Drs. Cox and Foster ended up remodeling the full interior of their office plus a large amount of the exterior. The final costs were close to $115,000, but Dr. Cox says they believe it will be recouped in new business in the next five years.
Here, we follow Family Eye Care Clinic's remodeling process step by step.
Before (below) and after pictures of Family Eye Car Clinic in Atlanta, Texas, illustrate how one practice redesigned for a fresh retail setting. Images courtesy of Barbara Wright Designs
STEP ONE: PLANNING
After assessing what needed to be updated, Dr. Cox decided to hire optical interior designer Barbara Wright, CID, of Barbara Wright Design, to help streamline the process. “I had seen articles by her, as well as an optical she designed, and I felt I needed help getting our remodel as modern as possible,” he says.
Wright's design fee of $21,000 included redesigning the dispensary and reception area, patient flow consulting, a color and finish plan for the entire 5,000-square-foot practice, exterior color selections, construction support, and photography.
Dr. Cox and Wright initially discussed working together via phone and computer. “I said, ‘I don't think it will work because our office is so different with raised ceilings, etcetera,'” he says. “So she agreed she needed to come see it. I think it was worth the extra expense to bring her over here.”
The interior and exterior redesign created an open, airy practice with space for more than 1,700 frames on display and in cabinets
With a solid base of information gleaned from Wright's trip to Family Eye Care Clinic, the next step was to define the objectives of the remodel.
“One of the main goals was to update the dispensary, provide more styling tables, improve merchandising, and create an open, spacious feeling,” says Wright.
This goal had its challenges. The existing dispensary had outdated bulky oak display fixtures with back-lit plastic frame boards. “There were not enough styling tables to handle the high volume of patients and no display space for high-end frames. It was cramped and crowded, making patients feel uncomfortable and rushed,” she says.
Wright worked closely with Dr. Cox to understand how he wanted his dispensary to work. A part of his vision was space for 1,200-plus moderate and high-end frames on display and 500-plus economy frames in trays in cabinets.
The next step was to hire contractors to handle the interior and exterior work. “The hardest thing for us to organize was who was going to do what and how they were going to do it,” says Dr. Cox, who hired all the subcontractors himself. “Once we got that together, it all just fell into place.”
STEP TWO: THE EXTERIOR
The contractors' first job was the remodel on the exterior of the building.
■ FACE LIFT. “The attractive, professional look of the brick building just needed a little freshening up,” says Wright. Instead of applying a coat of paint, a large amount of the wood on the building was replaced so it would all look new.
■ ROOF. “The old gray roof was replaced with new warm brown shingles and the trim was repainted in a khaki shade,” Wright says. The waiting room section's red metal roof, “alerts passersby that something new is happening at the practice,” she adds.
The skylights were also replaced.
■ SIGNAGE. A new sign put the finishing touches on the exterior.
■ LOT WORK. “We also completely cleaned up our parking lot and restriped it,” says Dr. Cox, who notes that the exterior work took about one month to complete and cost approximately $25,000.
STEP THREE: THE INTERIOR
The remodel on the interior of the office took about two months. Family Eye Care Clinic kept its doors open for business 99 percent of this time.
“We remained open except for one and a half days when we moved most of the furniture into the optical,” says Dr. Cox.
■ DISPLAYS. To get started, most of the freestanding vendor showcases and tower displays that had been taking up a large part of the floor space were removed.
“We designed sleeker, more compact wall displays using clear acrylic frame bars and glass shelves to make the space feel more open,” says Wright. “We also put cubicle displays with locking glass doors into each of the dispensary's three departments—men's, women's, and sunglasses—for showcasing better brands.”
■ DISPENSING. In addition, curved dispensing tables were put into play to offset the office's angular lines. Display cases were placed between the tables to create a feeling of privacy for patients.
All of the new tables, cabinets, and shelves were created by Texarcana, Texas-based Contemporary Concepts. “They are a commercial cabinet maker and they went out on a limb to make optical pieces,” says Dr. Cox.
Sleek acrylic frame bars and glass shelves make the newly redesigned space feel more open. Above: Terry Foster, OD, and Randal Cox, OD
■ FLOORS AND WALLS. Another big job was to sand all the concrete floors, put down vinyl flooring, and paint the walls once the old cabinets had been taken out.
Dr. Cox even had a concrete cutter come in to cut grooves for the electrical lines. “He worked all night on a Friday night, and Saturday morning we had the painters come in to paint the walls,” he says.
Because most of the remodeling work was done after business hours on nights and weekends, the contractors' fees were slightly higher than average. “It was worth it to avoid the loss of revenue, and we also needed to take care of our patients,” says Dr. Cox.
■ LIGHTING. The other big piece of the interior remodel was replacing all the office and dispensary lighting. Halogen track lights were used to highlight all the moderate-priced wall displays and energy-efficient LED lighting was installed in the cubicles.
Installing new lighting into the dispensary proved to be the most challenging part of the process. “The extremely high and angular beamed ceiling made it very difficult to add new lighting,” says Wright. “We cycled through three or four different electricians before we found one who had the experience and problem-solving ability to figure out how to feed power to the new track lighting without wrecking the ceiling.”
■ MAKING IT WORK. According to Dr. Cox, the other big remodeling challenge was working among the clutter and dust.
“At night, we'd have to get everything ready for the workers and clean things up in the area where they were to be working,” Dr. Cox says. “Then our staff would often have to come in two hours early in the day to clean—it was a dust bowl. But neither our staff nor our patients ever complained.”
To put the finishing touches on this labor-of-love project, Drs. Cox and Foster replaced all the pictures in the office with photographs of scenery from the local area. Dr. Cox notes, “We wanted to celebrate the beauty of Northeast Texas.” EB
|While this large-scale office remodel cost close to $115,000, Randal Cox, OD, says he believes this investment will pay for itself within five years. “I hope so, because we have a five-year note,” he muses, adding that receiving payback was less of an incentive than modernizing their practice to deliver better care.
“It's not just a matter of making money off this particular thing,” he says, “it's more about staying up to date to continue to keep doing what we're doing.”
Still, in the short time since the remodel was completed, Family Eye Care Clinic has experienced an uptick in higher-end frame sales. “We have noticed a definite increase in the higher pricepoints since we finished remodeling,” says Dr. Cox, who stocks frames from $30 to over $1,000, with an average frame sale of $160. “And, we are also up 10 percent in overall business over last year.”
In the end, the new design has given Family Eye Care Clinic an excellent place to showcase frames. “We are showing about 1,400 frames and the new cabinet space below the frame displays allows us to keep 800 more economy, safety, and overflow frames,” says Dr. Cox. “When you open the cabinets, they are all designed with pull-out drawers with individual little slots for the frames.”